THE 40 YEARS WAR
MARTIN SHEEN 52 MINUTES
Forty years after the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April of 1961, five Cuban-American Veterans traveled from Miami to Havana for an international conference devoted to the invasion. For some it was the first time they had stepped foot on Cuban soil since their release from Castro’s prisons and return to Florida in 1963.
A list of notables traveled with them: including Richard Goodwin; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; JFK’s sister, Jean Kennedy Smith; and Sam Halpern, the ex-CIA operative who ran Kennedy's infamous Operation Mongoose, the goal of which had been the assassination of Fidel Castro. Appropriate counterparts on the Cuban side were expected to attend, but whether the Commandante himself would show up was never assured and remained a mystery to everyone till the opening session.
Castro did in fact attend, but even as his presence may have dominated the conference, the inherent tensions of the gathering focused rather on the returning veterans of the Cuban-American Brigade 2506.
And this is our story. We followed Alfredo Duran, now a Miami attorney, and Mario Cabello, a truck dispatcher. These men went to Cuba as bravely today as they did forty years ago. Both men knew, however, that their presence in Havana would put them on a collision course with the dominant and often violent Cuban-American political forces in south Florida.
The three-day event was packed with emotion, but nothing could prepare Mario for the embrace of a sister he had not seen in forty years. The high point of the conference itself occurred when Castro and Alfredo shared a microphone in front of a map of the Bay of Pigs and joked with one another while discussing the battle. Suddenly, one of the Cuban soldiers shooting at Alfredo that day on the beach in 1961, marched up and shook his hand.
For the final day of the conference, a caravan of attendees traveled to the Bay of Pigs, advancing along the same roads the Cuban Forces used forty years earlier to resist the attack. On the beach, Mario and Alfredo walked with former adversaries. There were tears. There were memories of friends lost. And the Miami Cuban community’s revulsion to these images was entirely expected.
Nonetheless, all those who stood watching that day, knew they had witnessed something far more than an unprecedented reunion of key players on both sides of the Florida Straights. They knew they had also witnessed a beautiful, painful journey by two extremely courageous men.
Narrated by Martin Sheen Written & Edited by Peter Melaragno
Co-Produced and Co-Directed by Peter Melaragno, Jim Burroughs (Copyright Peter Melaragno 2003)
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